Vegas sheriff defends officers' actions, releases new video of Bennett's detainment
RENTON The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department asserted Friday its officers acted “appropriately and professionally” in detaining Michael Bennett outside a casino in that city Aug. 27.
The press conference in Las Vegas happened while the Seahawks were at team headquarters practicing Friday for the home game Sunday night against Indianapolis. It included more description and body-camera video of Bennett’s detainment. It also included footage of the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end face down on the side of a street outside the casino with a officer’s gun pointed near his head, and his interaction with officers in and around a patrol car soon after.
What the additional footage doesn’t show is the moment Bennett was apprehended, the moment to which Bennett objects most, after he and others were running from inside the casino. He, other patrons and officers were responding to what they thought were gunshots and an active shooter near a nightclub inside the casino.
The incident led Bennett to announce this month he was considering a civil-rights lawsuit “for the violation of my constitutional rights.”
Bennett has been sitting during national anthems at games since mid-August to protest mistreatment of minorities and need for police reform in our country. He left the locker room quickly following Friday’s light practice holding a hanger with a dress shirt. A team spokesman said he was on his way to a charity event.
Seattle’s KIRO television posted on its Facebook page Friday’s press conference. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joseph Lombardo narrated what he was showing, from an officer’s body camera inside and then outside the casino. Sheriff Lombardo described the reported gunshots were actually stanchions holding ropes separating a VIP entrance line inside the casino’s nightclub getting knocked over by people fighting inside the casino near the nightclub and crashing loudly onto a tile floor.
The video Sheriff Lombardo presented during his briefing showed multiple casino patrons running from the scene, including two who ran directly past two officers in a direction away from where Bennett is shown crouching behind slot machines and eventually running through an exit door.
The video does not show Bennett running outside the casino or jumping over a wall to street level. Officers have reported Bennett doing that is why they detained him forcefully. The footage does show his detainment after an officer had forced him face down with a gun drawn.
Sheriff Lombardo said the three officers involved with Bennett that night were minorities: two Latino officers, including the officer that first detained Bennett, and a black sergeant.
The video Lombardo presented shows officers calmly explaining to a frantic, terrified Bennett at a nearby patrol car some moments after his apprehension why they detained him. They said he was seen running from a site of an active-shooter call, and that for the safety of all Bennett had to be handcuffed because there wasn’t time for a back-and-forth, question-and-answer session outside the scene of an active-shooter call.
The footage shows Bennett repeatedly asking what he did to warrant officers forcing him face down on the street with a gun near his head. At one point while in the patrol car Bennett says he wants to go home to his wife and kids.
Earlier this month Las Vegas police held a first press conference to respond to Bennett’s allegation of officers threatening to “blow my ******* head off...simply for being a black man,” In that initial press conference police presented body-camera video in which the viewer can hear officers telling patrons in the casino to both get out of the building and to get down on the floor.
“We just all ran out the same like were were supposed to!” Bennett can be heard on the video Las Vegas police showed Friday telling officers that detained him.
Sheriff Lombardo began his press conference Friday saying it was evidence “of what we have learned so far,” suggesting the investigation of the incident is not complete.
He also had a message regarding Bennett.
“I am not here to disparage him...,” Lombardo said. “Mr. Bennett has a valid perspective as a person who’s experienced a reasonable-suspicion stop for a felony crime.
“Those who’ve experienced that kind of stop, especially when they have not committed a crime, are not likely to feel good about it.”